Terps miss out on top linebacker, still sign fine class Brother's drug arrest, rumor keep LB Brown in Virginia

February 04, 1993|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- Maryland won in its recruiting pitch, but some behind-the-scenes play caused the Terps to lose out on Cornell Brown, one of the nation's top high school linebackers.

A rumor and a recent arrest nearly 250 miles away from Maryland led Brown, 6 feet 3, 225 pounds, from E. C. Glass High in Lynchburg, Va., to sign a letter of intent with Virginia Tech on the first day of the national signing period.

Brown would have been the last of several blue-chip players to sign with Maryland in a class rated as the best in a decade for the Terps.

"I don't think going out of state is good for any kid who is just getting out of high school," said Oglessa Brown, Cornell's mother. "If he has a problem that far away, he can only talk by telephone. It's hard for me to get there."

Oglessa Brown apparently didn't think that way a few years ago. Another son, Reuben, is a sophomore All-America offensive tackle at Pitt.

But, nearly two weeks ago, Reuben Brown, along with two others, was arrested in an apartment and charged with possession with the intent to deliver cocaine and criminal conspiracy.

"We considered Maryland, and, as of last week, that school was his top choice," said Oglessa Brown. "But Maryland is too close to Washington, too near the big city. We wanted to go to a school near a smaller community. Virginia Tech is in-state, and it's smaller than Virginia. I can get to my son quickly."

Virginia Tech is in Blacksburg, a town with a population of 34,500 about 70 miles from Lynchburg.

Cornell Brown said Maryland, Virginia and Virginia Tech were his final three schools. He said Maryland was still in contention an hour before he made his decision yesterday, until he learned that Georgia Tech sophomore linebacker Jamal Cox (Gilman School), a two-year starter, transferred to Maryland yesterday morning.

It wasn't true.

Maryland officials and Georgia Tech linebackers coach Brian Baker said the rumor has been circulating since Christmas.

Brown never learned that it wasn't true.

"That made me real upset," he said of the supposed transfer. "They never even told me. I feel I can play with anybody, but they should have been straightforward."

Baker said: "That's all speculation. I'm sure the Maryland staff is a little peeved about that affecting a top recruit. But I'm glad he [Brown] went to Virginia Tech. We don't play them. We play Maryland."

Maryland coach Mark Duffner was unavailable for comment yesterday. But when Oglessa Brown was phoned and told that the rumor wasn't true, she said: "I don't know where Cornell got that from, but someone told him this morning. He was real upset. Oh well, I guess it's too late now."

Despite the decision by Brown, Maryland is still on the verge of breaking into the top 20 among national recruiting classes. The Terps got an unexpected signing yesterday from Darryl Gilliam, a 6-foot-6, 300-pound All-America defensive lineman from St. John's High in D.C. who had committed orally to Virginia.

He reneged on the commitment Monday. It is the first time in recent years Maryland has had success inside Washington. The Terps also signed St. John's offensive lineman Pat Ward, a USA Today All-American.

"This coaching staff worked with more energy on getting our kids than the former staff," said John Ricca, the sixth-year coach at St. John's. "Darryl said he changed his mind because his mother wanted him to stay close to home, and he also wanted to play with his close friend, Pat Ward.

"This staff has done a good job in getting the local players, and it's important to build that kind of foundation," said Ricca. "Now, if they can challenge for a title in a couple of years and go to a bowl game, all the locals will want to go there."

Maryland signed 22 players yesterday, including nine interior linemen. The Terps signed only one quarterback, Iona Prep's Brian Cummings, who threw for 1,700 yards last season.

In an effort to get some instant help, Maryland signed three junior college players and missed out on a fourth, Marcellus Chrishon, a 5-10, 180-pound running back from Saddleback Junior College in Mission Viejo, Calif. Chrishon, who runs a 4.45 40-yard -- and rushed for 1,864 yards last season, averaging 6.6 yards per carry, signed with Nevada-Reno.

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